Sarasota South Elks Lodge #2495 hosted 72 veterans for lunch March 11. Stephanie Kern, Associate Director of Philanthropy from Southeastern Guide Dogs was present and gave a brief introduction to what they do in preparation to assigning a guide dog to those in need. Ed Burton, a 28-year Navy veteran, told the attendees how helpful his guide dog, Sammy, is to him. Burton was an engineer and did three tours in Vietnam as well as in Nicaragua, Panama, Granada and Desert Storm. Injuries received during his service caused the inflammation of his optic nerve and led to his vision loss. Sammy is his second dog from Southeastern Guide Dogs. Since he has had him, he Burton has been able to live an active life and adapting to life on a sailboat spending time with his wife boating in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. He and his wife, Betty, are thankful to the Elks for their continued support of Southeastern Guide Dogs.
Stephanie Kern from Southeastern Guide Dogs attends a veterans luncheon March 11 at Sarasota South Lodge to speak about the organization’s guide dogs. Also pictured are Richard Bouchard, Exalted Ruler, and Ed Burton, a Navy veteran with his dog, Sammy.
On Jan. 27, Ken Fabiani, Exalted Ruler of Zephyrhills Lodge, made a presentation to Ken Juhn, manager and coordinator for the Veterans Golf League in Temple Terrace, Fla., of a full set of golf clubs and a golf bag that were donated by Paul and Patsy Thornton, Elks members in Michigan. The Veterans Golf League allows veterans to play at a reduced rate for a round of golf or a reduced rate on golf apparel. They can also use the golf range at no cost for buckets of golf balls. Additionally, they also have a few single-rider golf carts for veterans who are unable to walk; the cart seat turns and tilts the veterans into a standing position and is held to the seat by a seatbelt making it possible for them to drive the ball and continue on playing the round of golf.
On behalf of Zephyrhills Lodge, member Shirley Crawford delivered blankets to veterans at Baldomero Lopez Veterans Nursing Home Feb. 7. The Happy Hookers is a group of five women not affiliated with the Elks who volunteer to make the blankets for the veterans. Yarn is donated to them and each blanket takes about 15 hours to make. They have made 28 so far. The veterans were wide-eyed and smiling at this appreciated donation. The home administrator, Marlies Sarrett, expressed her sincerest gratitude for the donation which increases residents’ morale.
For the second year in a row, Twin Cities Elks Lodge #2747 donated $2,500 from their Elks National Foundation Gratitude Grant to Healing Paws for Warriors, a local nonprofit organization based in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., that provides American Disabilities Act-certified canines to veterans. Mike Arena, co-founder and executive director, says, “We are devoted to helping our veterans and the pet overpopulation problem. Once a veteran is accepted into our program, they will be paired with a dog adopted from a local shelter. They will live together from that point forward.” Depending on the individual needs of the applicant, they train them with a certified service dog. A certified service dog is allowed, by law, to enter public places such as the veteran’s workplace, restaurants, buses, stores, etc. These are rights set forth in the ADA. “When a veteran and their dog are close to graduation, they will be asked to mentor incoming trainees to help them transition into our program,” said Arena. “We feel this is very beneficial to both the new trainee and experienced veteran. Once the dog is fully trained in the individual tasks, it will be certified as a service dog.”
Arena served more than 23 years as an Air Force medic. After numerous deployments, he was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). After his diagnoses and subsequent retirement, he heard of a program that paired service dogs with veterans. Shortly after graduating from the program, he regained his smile and received a new K9 partner, Orion. He now provides executive management and service dogs at no cost to combat-injured veterans for the non-profit organization. “As a program,” he added, “we continue to grow our veteran-founded, veteran-led rescue-to-trained ADA-certified service dog program for those faced with PTSD, TBI or military sexual trauma. Each of our dogs cost approximately $25,000 to rescue, house, medically care for, feed and train.”
Healing Paws for Warriors relies solely on the support of the community such as that provided by Elks. More information about the non-profit organization is available at healingpawsforwarriors.org.
Twin Cities Lodge Exalted Ruler, Rick Woelfl, and House Committee chairman, Kathy Casey, present a $2,500 check to Mike Arena, co-founder and executive director of Healing Paws for Warriors.
The veterans at the Douglas T. Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home received new clothing, tennis shoes, shavers and personal care items from Rotonda Elks Lodge #2710. The lodge used $1,800 of the Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant for supplies and $200 for the Wednesday veterans’ meals at the lodge.
Lakeland Lodge made a donation to the James A. Haley VA Hospital specifically targeted to the homeless veterans they serve. The immediate need was for athletic shoes, rain jackets, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bar soap and baby wipes. The donation worth approximately $850 included 39 pairs of shoes, 13 rain jackets, 27 packs of baby wipes, 93 bars of soap, 68 toothbrushes, 64 boxes of toothpaste, 33 packs of antibacterial wipes and 20 pairs of socks. An additional 32 personal care kits were donated from member Dan Wait’s Sandpiper community. The kits were also tailored for the homeless veterans and included toiletries, socks, hats and puzzle books. Steve Masterton, PER and John “Mac” McArthur delivered the donations to the hospital.
Pictured are Marty, VA Hospital Voluntary Services; John McArthur, Lakeland Elk; Janice Rodriguez, VA Hospital Voluntary Services; and Steve Masterton, PER.
Lakeland Elks Lodge #1291 donated 40 cans of creamer, a box of sugar packets, two boxes of sweetener, 10 cans of coffee, eight cases of water and 15 cases of soda to the Lakeland Veterans Center. The facility does not have a provision for this in their budget. This donation will be used by local veterans during group and individual counseling sessions and takes the burden off the veterans to provide it. Pictured at the donation presentation are Char Fisher, Veterans Lodge Chairman; Kristen Francks, Veterans Lodge Co-Chairman; and Sherri’ Alip, Veterans Center office manager.
Inverness Elks Lodge #2522 used their Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant to treat some Purple Heart recipients, members of the Aaron Weaver Chapter of the Military Order of the Purpleheart (MOPH), to a half-day guided fishing outing out of Homosassa, Fla. The lodge with assistance from some local businesses provided the participants fishing shirts depicting the joint initiative between the Elks and the MOPH. After the outing, the participants and volunteers were treated to a fish fry prepared by the guides with the help of several lodge members. Awards were provided for the biggest fish, most fish and the fisherman voted the best sport by the guides. Richard Hunt from the MOPH was the unanimous winner of the alternative sport award, a badminton set. The guides felt he might want to hang up his rod and reel and break out the rackets.
Pam Croy has been doing pet sharing with her dogs for more than 20 years. She has been sharing at the Gainesville VA hospital’s community living center, their psych ward and at one of their halfway houses for the past 10 years. Pet sharing has many benefits, especially for veterans suffering from PTSD. The following is written by Croy and occurred at the psych ward with her Great Pyrenees dog, Baloo.
The sign on the door stated "group room – welcome." I opened the door to darkness, no lighting at all. Then a small figure moved over in the corner of the room. She stood up and came our way, 110 lbs. soaking wet, a cap of soft gray-black curls. She moved with the grace of a cat. She walked to within 10 feet of us, stopped, went back and sat down, then she got up again, and came all the way up to Baloo. She gave him a small pet, then walked away. We told her goodbye and left, walking on down the hallway. We noticed that we were being followed by this same woman. A tiny voice asked, "May I tell Baloo goodbye?"
She walked up, the obedience exercise of catching the dog's eye and repeating, “ME! ME! ME!” as you tap your nose, was her first action. Then she reached over and ran her hands along the dog's body, a dog handler or a dog judge perhaps at one time. Then she hesitated, stepped back and stood there for a moment. She then kneeled, threw both arms around the dog and held on. Baloo froze in place as he had been taught. She did this three times. Then she started to walk off, turned back, and threw her arms around the dog one last time. The lady then got up and walked back to her room, never looking back.
What emotions did she transmit to my dog? What was she thinking? Did Baloo give her a sense of peace? Baloo was exhausted when we left and slept all the way home!
On Feb. 15, Englewood Elks Lodge #2378 hosted a luncheon for veterans from four community nursing facilities and all area veterans. A total of 81 veterans and helpers were present. The veterans thoroughly enjoyed the outing which was organized by Paul Colicci, Veterans chairman.
Brandon Elks Lodge #2383 adopted Liberty Manor as their official adopt-a-vet program four years ago under the guidance of PER George R. Scribner, trustee. Liberty Manor is a nonprofit organization founded by Connie Lindsay to fill the much-needed void in housing and caring for homeless veterans.
Through the years, the housed homeless veterans of Liberty Manor have been honored guests of Brandon Lodge’s monthly Wednesday veterans’ dinners as well as picnics and other special events. In addition, the lodge also assists homeless veterans with monetary donations. At the lodge dinner Jan. 23, Liberty Manor was handed a $1,000 donation to assist them in caring for the veterans. This donation was made possible by the Elks National Foundation Freedom Grant.
Presenting Brandon Lodge’s Freedom Grant at the Jan. 23 Brandon Lodge veterans dinner to Connie Lindsay, founder and CEO of Liberty Manor, and her husband, David, are George Scribner, 2017-2018 District Vice President and State Veterans Chairman, and Bob Booker, Lodge Veterans Chairman.
In conjunction with the Dolphin Research Center (DRC), Marathon Elks Lodge #2139 prepared and fed over 50 veterans and staff from the Wounded Warriors project and DRC. The DRC provided their grounds for the day's events where the veterans participated in teambuilding exercises as well as fun with the dolphins. The lodge used its Elks National Foundation Beacon Grant to purchase the supplies and food for the luncheons they host about six times a year.
Pictured are Wounded Warriors veterans and staff, DRC staff and Marathon Elks after the day’s events at the Dolphin Research Center.